2010 GMC Yukon Denali Review

Yukon Denali

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The Good

Looks, ride comfort, cargo room, seven or eight-passenger seating, decent acceleration, and hefty trailer-towing capabilities are all strong suits of the 2010 GMC Yukon Denali.

The Bad

A noisy powerplant, cramped third-row seating, parking challenges, and a prodigious appetite for fuel in the non-Hybrid trims dull the 2011 Denali’s luster a bit.

The CarGurus View

Although it won’t ever be mistaken for a Ferrari, the 2010 GMC Yukon Denali shows some surprising nimbleness. The question is, does a hefty base price justify the purchase of this loaded-up leviathan, or will a large crossover do just as well? Trailer-towing needs will decide.

At a Glance

Need a large, comfortable, capable, semi-luxurious, full-size SUV? Look no further than the 2010 GMC Yukon Denali. This spiffy hauler is a tad classier than its Chevy Tahoe cousin, a bit less ostentatious than the Cadillac Escalade, and perfect for understated trailer towing or long-haul creature comfort for the whole gang – as long as the kids are sitting in the less-than-spacious standard third-row seats. Luxury touches, such as leather upholstery, chrome alloy wheels, and simulated wood trim inhabit this hulking Sport Ute, and a standard load-leveling suspension gives a smooth, comfortable ride, but all this comes at a hefty base price, with the rear-wheel-drive (RWD) Base Denali starting at $53,000.

For 2010, the Yukon Denali lineup, now with a standard USB connection, upgraded audio system, and side-mounted airbags, is offered in three trim levels, the Base, the stretched XL, and the green-leaning Hybrid. Each is offered with either RWD or full-time four-wheel drive (4WD), with seating for seven to eight passengers and 109 cubic feet of cargo space, except in the elongated XL trim, which expands this area to a cavernous 137 cubic feet. Towing capacity ranges from some 5,900 pounds for a properly equipped Denali Hybrid to 8,600 pounds for the capable Base RWD trim. Meanwhile, the XL trims stretch the 202 overall inches of the Base Denali to 222 inches, with its wheelbase expanding from 116 inches to 130 inches.

Reworked in 2007, and based on the beefier and wider GMT 900 chassis, the 2010 Yukon Denali is designed to compete with the likes of the Ford Expedition, Toyota Sequoia, and the Nissan Armada. Described by most reviewers as a touch more upscale than the Expedition, a tad less expensive than the Sequoia, and a bit more capable than the Armada, the Denali fills its niche with enough panache and muscle, comfort and style, value and dependability to satisfy those with a craving for an American-built, supersize, load-toting, and loaded family vehicle with a hint of luxury and a ton of towing ability.


Starring a potent 6.2-liter V8 engine, the 2010 Yukon Denali Base and XL trims bring some 403 hp and 417 lb-ft of torque to the table. These ponies are managed by a six-speed auto-manual transmission that features a standard auxiliary transmission-fluid cooling system. Variable valve timing and cylinder deactivation at cruising speeds provide middling mileage at 14/20 mpg for RWD trims and 13/20 for 4WD versions. Trailer towing capacity is maxed out at 8,300 pounds for a properly equipped Base trim, while the XL trims top out at 7,600 pounds. Furthermore, the conventional V8 features ethanol-capable FFV technology. Additionally the full-time 4WD trims across the lineup are managed by a center-mounted mechanical differential. Be advised, however, that the Denali 4WD trims are not off-road-ready vehicles due to their lack of low-range gearing. A rear locking differential is standard across the Denali lineup

The Denali Hybrid, meanwhile, features the same V8 oomph in a 6.0-liter hybrid engine that’s managed by an electronically controlled four-speed hybrid transmission. Mated to a 120-kilowatt electric motor, the Hybrid puts out 332 hp and 367 lb-ft of torque, with regenerative braking assisting the big V8 in recharging the nickel-metal-hydride battery. Able to accelerate up to 25 mph for short distances on electric power alone, this eco-friendlier Jimmy, also equipped with variable valve timing and cylinder deactivation, will get a head-turning 21/22 with RWD and 20/20 with 4WD. Trailer towing capacity, however, drops to 5,900 pounds.

Numerous reviewers concede that the added horsepower and torque seem to make little difference in overall acceleration and performance of the conventionally powered Denali trims over their lesser Yukon brethren, which feature a competent 5.3-liter V8. Further, most reviewers pan the larger V8’s louder, less refined engine racket, which seems inconsistent with its ballyhooed entry-level-luxury image. Hybrid trims, on the other hand, are lauded by most reviewers for their seamless transition from gas to electric mode and vice versa, as well as their noticeable improvement in fuel efficiency. The Base and XL trims are additionally praised for featuring the auto-manual transmission with its traditional contribution to more efficient fuel, traction, and trailer-towing management.

Ride & Handling

Though not as nimble as, say, a sports coupe, virtually all reviewers agree that the 2010 Yukon Denali offers a pleasant, well-balanced ride with some surprisingly sharp handling characteristics. However, the standard 20-inch tires on the Base and XL trims, with their comparatively short sidewalls, will not, according to most professional reviews, allow drivers to ignore most bumps and holes, nor does the standard load-leveling Autoride suspension offer much of an improvement to the overall driving experience, though it does dampen a bit of the traditional float notorious in the breed. The standard 22-inch tires on the Hybrid trims, furthermore, are noted as equally bump-challenged, but their added efficiency factor does contribute somewhat to overall fuel savings.

Featuring an independent long- and short-arm front suspension, self-leveling multi-link rear suspension, and front and rear stabilizer bars, the Denali is considered by most reviewers to be less prone to noseplow and sway in hard corners than many of its contemporaries. Steering, though competent enough around town, is judged a bit too vague and over-friendly on the highway. Overall, however, passengers can expect a reasonably quiet, comfortable journey, though the XL trims will be a considerable challenge to park in crowded lots and maneuver on busy streets.

Braking, meanwhile, is noted by nearly all reviewers as competent, with little pedal mush and no course deviation in hard braking situations. One test found the Yukon Denali can come to a stop from 60 mph in 134 feet, about average for its class.

Cabin & Comfort

As befits its flagship standing in the Yukon fleet, the 2010 Denali comes with an abundance of standard appearance and cabin amenities. Complementing such exterior touches as chrome alloy wheels, roof rack, power liftgate, step running boards, trailer hitch and wiring, lower-body cladding, and a honeycomb grille are extra niceties like three-row seating, reclining second-row captain's chairs, and premium leather upholstery. Adding to the list of standard passenger comfort and convenience goodies are remote power door locks, power windows, heated, reverse-tilting power-retractable outside mirrors, power-adjustable tilt-wheel steering with integrated audio and cruise controls, universal remote garage door opener, rear-view camera, OnStar/Bluetooth communications and vehicle systems management technology, remote engine start, tri-zone climate control, leather and simulated wood cabin trim, memory settings for two drivers, single-CD player with nine Bose premium speakers, XM satellite radio with real-time traffic updates, voice-activated DVD navigation, and a USB connection. Although similarly equipped, the Denali Hybrid trims offer second-row bench seating in place of the captain's chairs, thus providing seating for eight passengers rather than seven. Additionally, the Hybrid boasts 22-inch chrome alloy wheels versus the 20-inch wheels on the Base and XL trims.

Although delivered with enough standard amenities to satisfy all but the most demanding tastes, the 2010 Denali lineup does offer a number of options. Topping this list are a power sunroof and rear-seat DVD entertainment. Further available options include an integrated trailer brake controller, 22-inch spoked aluminum wheels (Base and XL), upgraded audio components, and retractable side assist steps.

Reviewers generally find the 2010 Yukon Denali interior to be almost luxurious, certainly more upscale than lesser Yukon trims, but some concern remains that these just-shy-of-extravagant touches don’t seem in keeping with its hefty price tag. Dashboard gauges are thought to be large enough, but indistinct markings on many controls mar an otherwise well-laid-out center stack. A well-integrated nav/audio interface is another positive that most reviewers notice. Ample leg- and headroom, at least in the first two rows, sufficient cabin storage cubbies and consoles, and the Denali’s standard power-tilting steering wheel go a long way to balance what some reviewers lament as a poorly designed third-row folding seatback and little room for groceries behind that same pesky and cramped third row.


It dominates most traffic, but the sizeable 2010 Yukon Denali is still delivered with a plethora of standard safety features. In addition to four-wheel ABS, traction and stability control, and electronic brakeforce distribution, additional standard safety items include dual front side-mounted airbags, front-, second-, and third-row head airbags, remote anti-theft alarm, daytime running lights, front fog/driving lights, rear parking sensors, turn-signal-integrated mirrors, OnStar Crisis Assistance and post-collision notification, and a post-collision safety system. Additionally, a blind-spot warning system is available for Hybrid trims.

The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) gives the Yukon Denali five stars across the board in front and side crash testing, while its rollover rating drops to three stars in both RWD and 4WD variations. No safety testing data is available for this full-size SUV from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), perhaps because of its size and weight.

What Owners Think

That cramped and inefficient third-row seat, standard in the 2010 Yukon Denali, comes in for its share of owner criticism due to its inability to fold completely flat, as well as the difficulty in removing it for added cargo space and convenience. Additionally, complaints are noted from owners about more than a few distinctly non-luxurious hard plastic interior surfaces and a blasé audio system. The unavailability of xenon HID headlights, noisy engine, and lack of heated and cooled cupholders and drinks storage also peeves a number of owners, as does the sheer length of the XL trim when trying to parallel park or when cruising crowded lots looking for suitable spots.

Ride comfort, towing ability, powerful performance from the big V8s, and, in the case of the Denali Hybrid trims, efficient and seamless gas-electric interaction all help the Denali garner far more praise than complaints from owners. Even manageable fuel efficiency, not usually a plus with this type of vehicle, comes in for a few kudos from owners of the conventionally powered Base and XL trims, who cite conservative driving as a key factor in avoiding at least a few gas stations. Finally, looks, a touch of luxury, and lots of standard comfort and convenience features all come in for a share of owner love.


Have Laptop. Will Travel. I'm retired and travelling the country in a 34' motor home. I'm really digging meeting people . . and sometimes their cars . . . getting a sense of what makes this nation tick. The plan is to visit all the national parks in the continental US, then cruise to Alaska to visit Denali, and to Hawaii to check out Haleakala and the Hawaii Volcano's national parks. Anyhow, when I'm not horsing the motor home around the roadways, I'm tooting around in the 2012 Ford Focus that we tow behind, or making runs to Home Depot and various malls with the 2004 F-150 that just won't die.

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